temptations

Carla

Hello! Hello! Hello! Everytime I say this I envision the sweet little Cambodian girl named Cora hopping up and down enthusiastically as we first walked into her daycare building. I hope you are well! I hope your family is great! The year is picking up momentum as the months FLY by! I have been transitioning out of a place where questions, for the most part, have predefined values and answers. This isn’t a place with a physical assignment, but a place within a program.  I am writing about YWAM. Examples? Yes. Here they come: Dating was a no-no during the school and outreach. Even if there was an attraction, there was an answer ready for the duration of the program: no. Super easy. Drinking? Nope. Smoking? Same answer: nada. We had schedules that enabled specific increments of time for quiet, worship, prayer, meals, work, play—everything for a balanced yet aggressive spiritual growth regimen. And this had become my normal. On August 11th I graduated from the Around the World in 80 Days Discipleship Training School. With graduation the pre-decided answers to questions we had also disappeared. Rules and guidelines are no longer corporately mandated. Drinking is up to you. If you want to date someone, this is in your own hands as well. When you will go to bed, where you will sleep, breakfast, work duties? None prescheduled or decided by others. My biggest challenge, as an extrovert especially, is taking the time that I need to be still. To mediate on God’s word, to journal, pray, and have my individual time. I loooooovvvveee good conversation. Throw in a cup of coffee and I am pretty certain this is close to what heaven is going to be like. When coversations and coffees present themselves abundantly? I struggle with balance. There have been a few surprises along the way so far, and I anticipate more. Surprises, though often delightful, can make a person’s stomach quite upset, can’t it? I’m learning more how to lean into God and enjoy the surprises He brings. Trying to expect the unexpected is quite challenging, and not something I have mastered.

Beside the pool at the Octopus Hotel in Dahab
Due to the political activities happening between Egypt and Israel, especially along the border, I have changed my flight. No longer journeying back across the border into Israel for a flight out of Tel Aviv, I am now flying out of Sharm El Sheikh. My flight leaves tomorrow at 6 a.m. The time I have spent here has been relaxing, and I am so thankful for the peace and rest I have received while being here. For me, Egypt has also been full of temptation. Permit me to be frank? I wrestled with whether to share or not, but I believe God wants me to include you on this aspect of the journey as well. Transparency is important for me, and  I am just a regular, average person with faults and weaknesses following Jesus and desiring to be closer to Him. So here we go.

Beginning with the first night here I have had to take a good hard look at the person I used to be, and the person I have become. God has been so faithful to renew and change the desires of my heart. Did you know that God can do that? I didn’t until this season. I want to write to you about temptations. The things that you have struggled with, and overcome by the shear grace of God? They do try to come back. If drinking is something that you have or had a tendency to do?  You had better believe opportunities will present themselves again and again. They will be subtle. Chances coming to you cloaked in “coolness.” A social event—and everyone will be doing this vert thing that you have decided to stop doing. Smoking? Relationships? Money? All things are game. The first night we were here, there was an opportunity to drink. First let me answer this question: Is drinking wrong? No. Drinking is not wrong, nor am I judging anyone that does drink. In my past I had a tendency to drink too often and this was, for a time, a vehicle of escape and distraction for me. While in YWAM I did not have to personally face this question because drinking was grounds for expulsion from the program. Would I risk losing this opportunity over a drink? No way.

So I was sitting in Dahab, Egypt, and it was my first day here. I was a little tired, but happy nonetheless to be with my brothers and sisters in Christ eating dinner. Sara and I were sharing a room, and we had put on music while we got ready—it is funny to me all the facets I have. As much as I LOVE to play in mud, and I would live in my swimming suit if I could—I thoroughly enjoy getting dressed up. My simple cream colored dress, a pair of almost worn out black flip flops, a little eye make-up, and I was ready to GO! After the food was ordered the question came, and I said, “sure.” Not even an all-out yes, but an uncertain agreement to the drink sitting before me, and another after that. So instead of enjoying the meal, the view over the water, and the incredible company? I wrestled with questions about what I was doing and had I really changed? After the dinner I came home, exhausted from thinking, and I prayed. I sought forgiveness from God over behavior that wasn’t right for me. The incredible thing? These two drinks revealed a lot to me. Drinking that night was like putting on a pair of jeans that once fit, and were no longer flattering to my body shape. Pants that I don’t want to wear now. I don’t know that I will never drink again, but I do know that I don’t want to drink now. I’m ready to answer this question when it comes again.

The next obstacle? Yes, this has been a challenging week. There was also a surprise attraction to a Muslim man. When walking down the streets of Dahab , if you look in shops, the store keepers often offer you a cup of tea. This has been a unique opportunity for me because as many of you know about my heart to do coffee outreaches. So we would sit in these stores, always at least two of us, drinking tea. We would talk about our different cultures, families, travels, and our different faiths. There was one guy, also 26, who introduced himself to me as Spice Boy. We had spent the week joking and chatting with one another whenever I would walk by. Sometimes we would stop and have tea, other times just wave as we walked by. Everything was light hearted, and fun. But? Something shifted in my emotions and I realized that I had become attracted to him.

Ahhhh! This was frustrating and honestly quite embarrassing. Realizing, again, that I am quite human, and not a robot. Anyway, he and I have nothing in common except we are both people and can both speak English. Really. He is Muslim, comes from a middle-eastern culture, smokes, drinks, ect. And I found myself liking him. Darn. My initial response was to ignore him, and that is what I did for about a day. This didn’t sit well with my heart, and I was feeling like quite a jerk. Praying, praying, praying about this. Then, my next course of action? Honesty. I know, I know. Many of you are rolling your eyes at me right now, but my decisions boil down to me doing what is right for me, not what is right for everybody else. So the next time I saw Spice Boy I had an honest conversation with him. We sat down and I told him that I liked him. And? Also told him that he and I are VERY different, that I am leaving in a few days, and nothing is going to happen. Telling him that I know that I know my husband has to love Jesus. Do you know what happened next? This BLOWS me away. I spent the next hour sharing my testimony about coming to know Jesus, talking about Father- Son- Holy Spirit being One God, the volunteering and traveling that we have been doing the last 3 months, and learning more about his Muslim faith. Perhaps he was listening with ulterior motives, but he was listening and I saw in his eyes a deeper respect for me. I am praying about the seeds that were sown. Out of my honesty I believe God redeemed the entire situation. I haven’t lost anything in Dahab—there isn’t any shame or murky water in Egypt for me. Also a new response for me in this situation? I shared the burden of this attraction with my brothers and sisters staying here in Dahab and we banded together in prayer about this. Prayer truly changes things.

My third struggle? Yes, there is one more. Fear of money. While in YWAM our leaders disbursed the funds we had raised to go on this journey for shelter, food, transportation, and activities. Money was not something I really had to think about. Now? Having graduated, it is my turn to be in charge of the resources God has given me. Before I begin? I want to first take a moment to applaud my mom. My biological father and mom were divorced when I was quite young. Subsequently she raised me and my two sisters almost entirely by herself until my step dad came into our lives about ten years ago. Never have I been without food, shelter, clothing, or anything. Money however, was a struggle. I grew up knowing money as a limited resource, and this knowledge growing into a fear of money. You all know when one thing breaks around your home? Two others usually follow, right? So if the roof leaks your tire usually goes flat at the same time. Well, this is how I grew up, and the stresses that come when you lean on your own support and understanding for provision are great. So, in this season, as my account goes closer to zero, I struggle with surrendering fear and anxiety to God. My desire is to know God more as my Provider. I find myself face to face with this fear. And daily—sometimes moment to moment—I surrender this, by placing it at the foot of the cross.  I am choosing trust in God over fear of money, and thanking him for this opportunity to trust in Him more. Jesus himself said in Matthew 6:24 that you cannot serve two masters, you cannot serve God and Money. I don’t want this fear to prevent me from serving God or stealing away the present moment. Philippians 4:6,7 says: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart s and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

I’m not walking in condemnation for these stumbles, I am walking in the freedom of forgiveness that God gives us when we seek forgiveness with a sincere heart. Failure was something that I used to adamantly and passionately try to avoid. I still try to make good choices, but fear of failure isn’t as paralyzing to me. By worldly definitions to fail is to be a failure. This is not my identity nor is it yours. Your identity is son or daughter. God uses our failures, shortcomings, accidents to teach us. I believe that when you are able to get back up and learn from mistakes? They aren’t really mistakes so much as learning opportunities. There are riches and treasures found along the journey you walk though to get to the destination. Often the process of getting to the goal is just as important than reaching it. My challenge to you? Take a look at the things you are struggling with right now. We are not perfect, and yet we can do everything through Jesus who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). Pray about them. God knows even more about them and your heart than you do. He is sovereign. And, did you know God cares about these details in your life wwaayy more than you do? Seek healing or forgivenss or guidance and God will meet you exactly where you are. I’m praying for you, who are reading this, that you would not walk in condemnation for anything going on in your life. Praying that you can walk in the victory Jesus has already accomplished for you, and with that the freedom found in forgiveness. Choose peace, choose trust. Please know my heart is to stand with you in prayer, and I am just an e-mail away (brunsellc@gmail.com).
Would you join me in prayer?
Focus on God, the root that is fear of Money would break off–knowing God as Provider more. Multiplication of finances.
Please pray for the people I have met while being here and the seeds that have been planted. Praying God would speak to them in dreams and their hearts would be opened to receive salvation. Please pray for: Muhammads (there are three), Assim, Numary.
Traveling to Greece tomorrow for an organic farming and pottery adventure. Please pray grace and peace during the transition and divine appointments.
I am prayerfully pursuing attending a school that is geared towards equipping individuals interested in long(er) term missions. Missions has gripped my heart and my desire is to seek additional education to serve better. Praying God’s will in my life. Waiting on hearing back from the application.
Love and blessing from Egypt,
:o)
Carla

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